The Montana Meth Project has released a new educational video in an effort to help teachers explain the facts around meth and the dangers of addiction in the face of a pandemic that’s putting extra stress on teen students who are vulnerable to drug use.
The 20-minute Montana Meth Prevention Lesson Video shows the harmful effects of meth use and addiction through animations, graphics, imagery and interviews with experts and teens in recovery. Hosted by Missoula science teacher Mike Crockett, the video is designed to be a free, one-click tool for teachers, homeschool parents and other educators both in the classroom and in remote settings.
“As technology has changed, as how we consume information has changed, we have really adapted to communicate with teens where they are, both at home and in schools when possible,” said Amy Rue, executive director of the Montana Meth Project.
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The video condenses down information the Montana Meth Project has been teaching for the last 15 years through billboards, commercials, outreach and more and is a revamp of educational tools they’ve provided in the past.
“School right now is really interesting and challenging,” said Crockett, who teaches science at St. Joseph School in Missoula. “Whether you’re a parent homeschooling or you’re a teacher who’s trying to reach remote students, (the video lesson) is something that can very easily be accessed.”
In the video, Crockett goes over what meth is made of, discussing the dangers of common household ingredients you’d find in the drug. He conducts an experiment showing the volatile reaction that occurs between sodium metal (similar to lithium, a common ingredient in meth) and water.
“Now let’s imagine how harmful meth must be for people,” he says, as the sodium metal bubbles and smokes in the water.
The video covers the short- and long-term effects of the drug to both the brain and the body, going over its changes to the brain’s chemical makeup, how it affects behavior and how it can cause psychosis, including delusions and paranoia.
There are also interviews with real-life teens recovering from meth use, which Crockett said can often have the biggest impact on students.
“Anytime there’s real-life stories about people who are in recovery that look like the teens who we’re teaching, I think that’s more real to them than me, for example, saying, ‘You shouldn’t do this,’” Crockett said.
While some of the images and stories in the video are disturbing, Crockett said it’s the reality of what meth use and addiction looks like.
The Montana Meth Project, which has expanded to several other states, was started 15 years ago in an effort to reduce teen meth use. According to its website, since the project’s launch in 2005, teen meth use in Montana has declined by 73% and meth-related crime has decreased by 62%.
But despite those successes, because the pandemic has interrupted students’ routines and activities, teens are at an increased risk of drug use right now, Rue said.
“I think young people are even more at risk of isolation, at risk of depression, and as we enter another year of the pandemic, our efforts are just so vital to reach Montanans who are struggling and are most at risk for drug use,” she said.
Montana is seeing a perfect meth storm right now, she added, with the highest availability, the highest purity and, in some areas of the state, the lowest cost in 15 years. So even with the reductions in teen meth use over the past decade, the drug is still readily available and easily accessible to teenagers in Montana.
“The content that Montana Meth Project has produced has had a pretty profound impact on reducing use and it’s proven to work, so it can lull you into a sense that it’s no longer a problem in our state," Crockett said. "But unfortunately kids can still get their hands on it relatively easily."
Along with the video, Montana Meth Project is offering supplemental assignments to reinforce and dive deeper into the facts around meth. Teachers, parents and educators looking to use the prevention lesson video as a tool can sign up to access the content for free at montanameth.org.
Rue said she's already seen teachers, parents and educators from 35 different states sign up to use the curriculum.
"We knew that our audience would be spending more time online and at home more than ever before," she said. "We want to make sure we're still engaging that audience."